Despite our greater proximity to the Caribbean, the US gets far less interesting rums from the region than does Europe. The rum revolution (well, sort of) that took portions of the single malt enthusiast market by storm in the last half decade was centered almost entirely on releases from European bottlers. Well, here finally is one that was released exclusively in the US. It’s got one of those silly names that makes you think Diageo might be involved but the word on the street is that this is a 6 yo Hampden. The bottles are 375 ml and still available and very reasonably priced (<$25/bottle in many markets). That means there’s a good chance this will be the best value of any booze I’ve reviewed this year: I’ve not had many Hampdens but all the ones I’ve had have been great. Hampden rum, with its dunder-fueled, high ester spirit, had also until recently been the funkiest spirit I’d willingly put in my mouth but that crown has since been passed to the two marcs I tried in the last month and a half (especially this Jacoulot). Will this seem tame now? Continue reading
And now a break from bourbon cask whisky and indeed from all whisky. This is a rum—though as I think about it, it’s quite likely it too was matured in a bourbon cask. The distillery in question is Caroni, a very big name in the rum renaissance of the last decade. Caroni has been referred to by whisky geeks as the “Port Ellen of rum”, not least because it too has closed (in 2002). Now you might think that calling something “the Port Ellen of x” would mean that it was being sold at a king’s ransom but that was not true of this cask when it was bottled by A.D. Rattray in 2012. I believe it went for about $50. I’m sure it would be a very different story these days.
Caroni was located in Trinidad. I know nothing about the usual profile of Trinidadian rums—I don’t even know if there is a usual profile in Trinidadian rum—and so I will not be able to tell you if this cask of Caroni is representative or not of Trinidad rum. And as it may well be the first Caroni I’ve had I can’t even tell you how representative it is of Caroni’s own rum. Now that you know just how uninformative this review will be, let’s get to it! Continue reading
Yesterday I reviewed a 19 yo Golden Devil exclusive rum for K&L. That one was from Guadeloupe. For this review let’s leap over to Guyana and go up a few years in age. This is a 25 yo Enmore, referred to by some—and few less enthusiastically as the people selling it—as the Port Ellen of rum. I’m not really sure what that means. Enmore and Port Ellen are closed distilleries but so is Dallas Dhu; why is Enmore not the Dallas Dhu of rum? I demand answers! But seriously, you can’t expect me to get excited about something that’s not the Pappy of its category—Driscoll must have been slacking on the job that day.
The history of the Enmore distillery and of Guyanese rum in general is complicated. All the Guyanese distilleries were consolidated into one in the mid-1990s and even before that Enmore produced both column still and pot still rum. This particular release is a single cask of pot still rum and it was bottled at a whopping strength of 63%. I have, as it happens, had another 25 yo Enmore bottled for K&L—that one was from their less fancy Faultline label (is that still on the go?) but I liked it a fair bit. Will this be as good? Let’s see. Continue reading
From Cognac to rum. This is another K&L selection and another sample from Sku. I know only a little more about rum than I do about Cognac and so I can tell you that Bellevue is a distillery in Guadeloupe (a word that is very hard to spell late at night) but I cannot tell you very much more than that. This was also bottled by Hunter Laing in their Golden Devil series—I think that’s the name used for their Kill Devil line in the US (is that because there’s an American producer named Kill Devil?). Anyway, I know nothing about the characteristics of Guadeloupean rum and so am curious to see what this is like. Let’s find out.
Bellevue 19 (59.7%; Golden Devil; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: A little blank at first but then there’s a pretty standard if muted dark rum profile laced with aniseed and an herbal character (sage?). As it sits it begins to open up with more caramel. Let’s see what water does. Not very much really—no interesting change to report. Continue reading
Here is your second rum review for the week. Like Monday’s rum this is from the Worthy Park distillery in Jamaica. It is a year younger and was distilled two years later. The label says it was “aged in the tropics”, presumably in Jamaica before being bottled by Habitation Velier, an Italian outfit that has become one of the bespoke independent bottlers of high quality rums made without artificial flavouring and colouring and so on. Excitingly, this was one of a few releases that made their way to the US in 2018. I purchased this along with another Worthy Park and a Hampden from Astor Wines & Spirits in New York; I’m not sure if they were more widely available as well. At any rate, wherever they were available, I hope they sold out quickly, thus encouraging Velier and any other bottlers who may be watching about the prospects of selling non-mainstream rum in the American market. God knows we’re closer to the Caribbean than is Italy—there should be a way to get us more good rum. Then again it’s not even possible to have booze shipped to me from Illinois, just one state over from Minnesota…Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as Monday’s excellent Cadenhead release. Continue reading
More rum but not from a distillery I’ve reviewed before. This is from Worthy Park, like Hampden, a Jamaican distillery. The distillery has a long history but not a continuous one. It stopped distilling in 1960 and only started up again in 2005 with brand new facilities (see here for more on the distillery). This means this particular rum was produced in the first year of the distillery’s revival. It was bottled 11 years later by Cadenhead in Scotland. I’m not sure when Scottish and other European bottlers began to carry rum in a big way but I can only imagine that this has been a boon for the revitalized distilleries of the Caribbean. Now if only more of these rums would be available in the US. I purchased a 200 ml bottle from Cadenhead’s Edinburgh store last June and have been looking forward to tasting it. My only other exposure to Jamaican rum has been through a few wild releases of Hampden and I am curious to see how much of that character is shared by Worthy Park.
Speaking of things I have been buying but not reviewing, here is a rum. I’ve not reviewed very many rums and most of those that I have have been insane Hampdens from Jamaica. This is a rum from Barbados. Foursquare—like Hampden–is a working distillery but unlike it, has an official presence in the US. A number of rums from the distillery have been released here and they’ve been fairly priced. This 11 yo from 2004 is still available and can be found in the $60 range. That may seem like a very high price to those who’re accustomed to thinking of rum as a rough spirit to be mixed with Coke but this is a good sipping rum, and the price is very good compared to a lot of single malt whisky. The Springbank 12 CS, for example, goes for $80. This rum is, I believe, a blend of pot and column still distilled rums and like all of Foursquare’s rums is made without the addition of sugar or any other sweeteners prior to bottling. It’s one I really enjoy and it’s about time I posted a review. Continue reading
I have been slow to board the rum boat. I’ve only reviewed three rums till now. In the meantime, Serge V.—who all but singlehandedly got whisky geeks around the world to start drinking rum—has already reviewed more rums than I have whiskies in the entire time that I’ve been reviewing whiskies. This is not an exaggeration.
One of the problems with being late to the party is that most of what first got people excited is already gone and prices have begun to rise. Still, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up with whisky. Hampden is a cult distillery, for instance, and this 18 yo, released last year, is still around and costs far less than the Highland Park 18. Of course, the bigger problem for those of us in the US is how little interesting rum is available here. K&L in California were the only ones committed to a rum program but the new limitations on inter-state shipping may have put paid to that: large numbers of bottles of a Hampden they brought in early in the year and expected to sell out in a day or two are still sitting on their shelves (well, it’s possible that asking $70 for a 9 yo rum may also have something to do with that). Anyway, there’s an opportunity here for independent bottlers who already have distribution channels across the US: if you make good rum available to us widely, we will buy it. Continue reading
I interrupt the highly untimely reviews of bourbon cask whisky (Aberlour, Aberlour, Bladnoch) to bring you a review of a relatively recently released Jamaican rum. Well, I guess it might be from a bourbon cask too—I confess I’m not very informed as to rum production methods. I can tell you though that this rum is from the Hampden distillery and that Hampden rums are all the rage these days among whisky geeks who are getting or have recently gotten into rum. I’m not sneering at this phenomenon, mind: here I am myself with a review of a Hampden rum despite not knowing very much about rum. I’ve reviewed another Hampden previously: a highly aromatic bruiser of a 6 yo. That one was bottled at 68.5% (!); this one is at a more staid 50%. A more important difference (possibly) may be that these come from different points in the distillery’s ownership history. As to whether this one is as off the charts with the esters as the Habitation Velier bottle, I don’t know, but I guess I’ll find out in a minute. Continue reading
As I made clear in my review of the Hampden 6 yo, I know nothing about Jamaican rum. I know even less about Demerara rum. And so I have nothing to say by way of introduction to this 25 yo rum from the Enmore distillery in Guyana except that it was bottled by K&L in California for their Faultline label and is long sold out. If you know more, please write in below.
Enmore 25, 1989, Demerara Rum (51.3%; Faultline; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Overripe bananas with brown sugar and caramel. Spicier on the second sniff with cinnamon and clove. Gets a little varnishy as it sits and there’s some dried paint in there too. Caramel is the top note with time and there’s a mildly smoky/leafy note too now. A little sweeter with water. Continue reading
Rum was my drink of choice in my college and post-college years in India. That’s largely because rum was the only decent spirit available in India in those days. Indian whisky was not worth talking about, unless you managed to get your hands on a bottle of Solan No. 1 (which was hard to get even in the late 1980s)—even as a callow teenager I knew that all those whiskies were largely good for was getting drunk, and even then you’d have to mix them with a lot of soda. There were some decent rums though—Old Monk, for example. Truth be told, we drank Old Monk largely with coke as well but it did not punish you if you drank it neat or with water. (Old Monk is still around and even available in the US as of a few years ago.) And not that I could afford very good taste when I came to the US as a graduate student in the early 1990s, but rums that were widely available then (or even now for that matter) weren’t very much better (either bland white rums or spiced monstrosities). Of late though the situation has begun to change as more esoteric rums from the Caribbean have begun to become available and rum is slowly making the transition from a cocktail ingredient to a sipper in its own right. It’s behind tequila and even mezcal in this regard but it’s getting there. Continue reading